After putting much on hold in March 2020, the Provincial Court of British Columbia has reopened but with new ways of doing things. All new family matters are once again being accepted by the court. Family hearings and conferences are proceeding on their scheduled dates. Previously adjourned hearings, conferences, and trials have been rescheduled.
Most proceedings are being conducted virtually, meaning you'll "attend" your hearing by a phone call from the court, a conference call through Telus, or an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams.
A number of courtrooms throughout the province have reopened for proceedings that can't be handled by phone or video call. Trials are the only matters being heard in person, unless a judge orders otherwise. (See the Provincial Court Notice NP 19.)
Anyone who enters a courthouse or who attends court in person will be required to follow the court’s guidelines for health and safety during the pandemic, including physical distancing and hand sanitizing. You must wear a face mask.
See the sections below for full details about family hearings, conferences, or trials.
To file family law forms online or by email, you can use an electronic signature — except for affidavits and financial statements, which must be signed by hand (see the next section). An electronic signature can be a scan of a handwritten signature or a signature drawn with a stylus, trackpad, etc. It doesn't include a typewritten name or signature using a digital ID. (See the Provincial Court Notice FAM 10.)
All the usual limitation periods and filing deadlines apply. If you think you may have missed a deadline, contact the court registry immediately and find out:
- if you have a court date, and if you can still file, or
- if you can make an application to extend the time period.
It's a good idea to contact a lawyer immediately as well (see Who to call or Where to go). See the Legal Aid in BC website for current information about duty counsel lawyers and family advice lawyers, who are now available by phone only.
Affidavits and financial statement
As of May 17, 2021, you can file the following signed documents without first swearing or affirming them if it's medically unsafe or not possible to meet with a commissioner of oaths:
- Affidavit — General (Form 45)
- Financial Statement (Form 4)
- Guardianship Affidavit (Form 5)
- Application About a Protection Order (Form 12) if you're attaching Schedule 1
When you go to court, the judge will likely ask you to swear that the contents of your documents are true.
To file sworn or unsworn affidavits and financial statements online or by email, sign the document by hand (electronic signatures aren't acceptable). Then scan the document — most smartphones have an app to do this. Fill out and attach an Electronic Filing Statement (Form 51). Keep the original document in case a judge orders you to file later on.
Family case/management conferences
Family management conferences, family settlement conferences, and remand lists are happening by audioconference or videoconference on their scheduled dates. Contact the court registry for dial-in (or link) instructions before the scheduled date.
Family trials and trial continuations
Family trials will be heard in person, unless otherwise ordered by a judge. They will be on the trial list on the date scheduled. Go to court in person (with your lawyer, if you have one) on the date scheduled at 9 am to tell the court if you’re ready to go ahead that day. The court will decide which trials will proceed. Witnesses and anyone who has a lawyer must wait outside the courthouse (within a 30-minute distance) and be prepared to go to court in person.
The court is processing all family matters, and most hearings are being held by audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams.
Family remand lists are being heard by audioconference or videoconference on their scheduled dates. Contact the court registry for dial-in (or link) instructions before your scheduled date.
Courts serving remote locations (Circuit courts)
Provincial Court judges, court staff, and lawyers travel regularly to hold court in remote communities around the province. In-person hearings in some circuit court locations are now proceeding again. In other locations, matters are being heard on the day they're scheduled by audioconference. See the court's announcement for more information and for contact information for each location.